Central Johannesburg. Picture: 123RF/MIRKO VITALI
Central Johannesburg. Picture: 123RF/MIRKO VITALI

Technology company Dimension Data on Tuesday suspended its services to the City of Johannesburg, effectively holding SA’s biggest municipality’s systems to ransom until a settlement was reached.

The suspension affected all network-dependent applications, including the council’s internal e-mail and its website.

The suspension of the service by Dimension Data came two weeks after the city reported a breach in its system which shut down its website and all e-services, hours after receiving a bitcoin ransom note from a group called Shadow Kill Hackers.

The city has, however, emphasised that the suspension of services on Tuesday was not related to the hack.

This was not the first time a City of Johannesburg contract resulted in services being suspended. In October 2018 the city was unable to collect refuse as a result of a bungled contract with vehicle rental company Avis.

Finance MMC Funzela Ngobeni’s spokesperson Happy Zondi said the city entered into a reduced settlement agreement with Dimension Data which restored the services. The reduced settlement amounted to R147m.

The council said the dispute arose from a contract which the city entered into with the service provider in 2011. The contract was extended multiple times via a provision in the Municipal Finance Management Act. A new contract was concluded in June 2016, along with a subsequent service level agreement signed by the then group executive director for information technology at the City of Johannesburg.

Zondi said about 60% of the city’s ICT was outsourced but processes were in place to ensure most of the work was brought back to the council. This was also important to limit risk to the city, Zondi said.  

Ngobeni said in a statement on Thursday that all services, except the city's call centre, were restored after the settlement.

“We expect these services to be up and running again by the end of the week,” Ngobeni said.

Customers would be able to receive their monthly statements by e-mail and other conventional methods of their choice.

Ngobeni apologised “to all our customers and all who have been affected by this unfortunate incident”.  

Dimension Data CEO Grant Bodley confirmed the issue had been resolved and said he did not want to comment further.

The ANC in Johannesburg on Wednesday said the fact that the ICT systems were not working proved that outgoing mayor Herman Mashaba was unable to govern a complex city like Johannesburg. “The sooner Mashaba goes, the better it will be for our residents,” the ANC said.

Mashaba resigned with effect from November 27 as a result of internal differences in his party, the DA.